Ventura, which sits between Ventura River and Santa Clara River also lies at the base of Mount Pinos, so with that in mind it is fair to say that you will literally be surrounded by stunning nature here. As if that wasn’t enough, Ventura is also located next to the Channel Islands, and has a laid back beach atmosphere that makes it the perfect place to take in some sun, sea, and sand.
To that end there is a picturesque harbor here in the form of Ventura Harbor Village, and a delightful Promenade that will let you take in the fabulous beaches and surfing options here. If you like water sports then you are in luck, as you can enjoy not only surfing but also kite boarding, swimming, paddle boarding, and more, and if you prefer something a little more laid-back, then you can spend your days here strolling around museums, galleries, and gardens.
Lets explore the best things to do in Ventura:
1. Ventura Pier and Promenade
Ventura Pier dates from 1872 and is a favorite beauty spot in the city. Locals flock here thanks to the fishing opportunities that abound from the end of the pier and if you come here in the evening you can take in the spectacular sunsets for which the area is famous. The pier spans 1,700 feet and although it has been restored is still made of wood and steel as it would have been back in the day. As you stroll along the pier, make sure to look out for the panels that tell you all about the history of the pier and the wider area. Underneath the pier visitors will find a sandy playground which has a play area for children.
2. Ventura Botanical Gardens
Started in 2012, the Ventura Botanical Gardens is the perfect place to commune with nature if you are in the Ventura area. The gardens were first established by local residents and at the center of the gardens sit Grant Park which spans 107 acres of greenery and offers visitors views over not only Ventura but also the ocean in the distance. The gardens have 160 species of plants that mostly hail from the Mediterranean as well as pine and eucalyptus forests. The gardens also include Demonstration Trail, a mile long walkway that lets you take in views of vineyards, mountains, and farmland in the distance.
3. Mission San Buenaventura
The San Buenaventura Mission was built in 1749 by a Franciscan priest looking to convert the indigenous Chumash population to Catholicism. The mission has experienced fires, earthquakes, and even threats from marauding pirates, but it still stands proud to this day and is in working order with mass held here regularly. Things to look out for on a visit here include the 1809 altar as well as the collection of period artwork on display. You can tour the mission with one of the friendly and knowledgeable volunteers who work here, and there are also flower gardens around the actual church that are perfect for an afternoon stroll.
4. Surfer’s Point Beach
Situated at the start of the Ventura River, Surfers Point Beach sits next to the adjacent Seaside Park. The river itself forms a lagoon around the beach and this means that the area is alive with wildlife including a huge number of indigenous birds, so if you enjoy bird watching then this is definitely the place to come. The beach is south-facing which means that the barrels formed here make surfing an ideal pastime, so if you are looking to get out in the water during a trip here then this is certainly one beach not to be missed. Depending on your skill levels kite surfing is also available here at certain parts of the beach where the winds pick up.
5. Surf Brewery
If you want to try some famous California beer then look no further than Surf Brewery where you can visit the brewery’s tasting room and sample some of the craft beers on offer. The brewery, as the name suggests, also has a kind of surf and beer museum attached to it that will take you through the history of surfing and the history of beer producing in California and there is a range of memorabilia here that visitors can peruse. There are also live music nights held here at the weekends and food trucks also serve the brewery so that you can combine a trip with some tasty local bites to go with your beer.
6. Museum of Ventura County
The Museum of Ventura County started off as the private collection of a Pennsylvania doctor who accepted ‘objets d’art’ in lieu of payment at his clinics, and subsequently set up the pioneer Museum in 1913 to showcase his collection. This then became the Museum of Ventura County in 1977 and now sprawls over 15,000 square feet. The museum now also houses the Agricultural Museum on the same property, and is a great place to come if you are interested in the history of this area. There are over 30,000 objects here in the Fine Arts and Historical Artifacts collection alone, as well as items that date back to some of the earliest residents of Ventura.
7. Serra Cross Park
Sitting above Mission San Buenaventura lies Serra Cross Park, most well known because of the wooden cross that is planted in the ground here. The purpose of the cross used to be as a sign for those looking for the mission, and the area around it has now become Serra Cross Park, which spans 107 acres of land. Many visitors come here at sunset, as the elevation of the park makes it the perfect place to watch the sunset over the ocean.
8. Rubicon Theater Company
For a night of theatrical fun in Ventura, head on over to the Rubicon Theatre Company which has been going strong here for 17 seasons. The company is made up of local talent and you can expect a wide range of spectacles here, including theatre productions, musicals, and other special events. The venue here is known for being small compared to many other theaters in the area which gives it an intimate feel that lets you get drawn in to the action on stage.
9. Emma Wood State Beach
Two miles to the west of Ventura proper will bring you to Emma Wood State Beach, where you can indulge in traditional California pursuits such as swimming and surfing. For anyone who is keen on fishing, this is also the place to come, as there is an abundance of aquatic life including local delights such as perch, corbina, and bass. As well as fish you will also find a range of animals in the park like raccoons and gorgeous great blue herons that live here. If you are really lucky, you may also be able to see dolphins swimming in the clear waters around the park, and you will also find historical sites here such as a Second World War artillery site.
10. Four Brix Winery
Four Brix Winery is known for being a craft winery that is nestled in the center of the downtown Ventura area and has a specialty in producing blended wines. The winery is known in the area as it only makes around 2,000 cases of wine a year, so you will need to get here quickly to grab one of their best bottles. The wines have names like Smitten, Temptress, and Rhondezvous, and you can sample all of these and more at the tasting room which is located on site. In addition to the tasting room, you can also visit the winery to attend their special event nights that pair their wines with food from the local area.
11. Lake Casitas Recreation Area
Located in the Los Padres National Forest is the stunning Lake Casitas Recreation Area which is a product of the Casitas Dam on Coyote Creek. The lake is known in Ventura as one of the top spots in the region and there are a range of campsites here if you fancy camping overnight in the wilderness and spending a few days communing with nature. The area around the lake is studded with woodland and as a result you can see a whole host of wildlife such as possums, raccoons, coyotes, and even the odd bear!
12. Ventura Bike Path
For anyone who loves biking, make sure not to miss the jewel in Ventura’s crown, which is the Ventura Paved Bike Path. The path runs to the neighboring city of Ojai which is also known locally as ‘Shangri-La’ due to its gorgeous landscapes. The path is paved which means that even if you are not an experienced biker it is still a relatively easy and smooth journey, and the path runs through natural beauty spots such as Foster Park. Other places to look out for along the way are Sulphur Road which has pretty vistas over the surrounding countryside.
13. Island Packers
Ventura is located in the Channel Islands, and as such it would be a shame not to take to the beautiful waters here and check out the surrounding area by boat. Island Packers have a host of luxury vessels that will help you to do just that, and these range from cruises around the island to fast moving catamarans. The islands in the Channel Islands are known as the American Galapagos and are teeming with indigenous wildlife, so if you want to check out the local flora and fauna then this is definitely a trip not to be missed. Island Packers offer different cruises that last different lengths and you can even go whale watching or camp overnight on one of the five islands.
14. Ventura Harbor Village
If you want to get a sense of the local flavor in Ventura then head to Ventura Harbor Village where you will find it in spades. This seaside village has a range of different attractions that include boutique shops, galleries, and a variety of tasty cafes and restaurants that look out directly on to the harbor. Depending on when you visit you will often find live music events here as well as other attractions such as pop up markets.
15. Ventura County Wine Trail
Ventura County is known for being wine country, and with that in mind a trip to the Ventura County Wine Trail is not to be missed if you are in the area. The wine trail takes in a range of wineries as well as offering spots to stop off along the way for some food. In addition to the wineries, tasting stations, and food stops, there are also other fun attractions along the way, making this not just a wine related trip but also a chance to take in the glorious beauty and scenery of Ventura as a whole.